13:10 GMT01 March 2021
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    On Monday, retired American basketball star Dennis Rodman urged US President Donald Trump to send him to North Korea to help ease the tension between the US and Kim Jong-un’s reclusive and authoritarian state.

    Rodman had recently planned a trip to Pyongyang, which would have been his sixth visit to the country, after finishing an interview in Beijing. However, he claims that US officials discouraged him from traveling to North Korea.

    "Basically they said it's not a good time right now," Rodman said on Monday, the Guardian reported.

    A US State Department ban on US citizens visiting North Korea was enforced in September after the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was detained in North Korea for more than a year for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel. Warmbier died shortly after returning to the US from what the North Koreans claimed was botulism; Warmbier's parents allege his death resulted from mistreatment during his captivity. 

    Rodman first visited North Korea in 2013 and struck a friendship with Kim Jong-un, he says.

    "If I can go back over there… you'll see me talking to him, and sitting down and having dinner, a glass of wine, laughing and doing my thing. I guess things will settle down a bit and everybody can rest at ease," the 56-year-old former NBA player said.

    "I think a lot of people around the world… want me to go just to see if I can do something," he added.

    Rodman claims that he has been trying to talk to Trump about North Korea for a while now. 

    "I've been trying to tell Donald since day one: ‘Come talk to me, man… I'll tell you what ‘the Marshal' [Rodman's nickname for the North Korean leader] wants more than anything… It's not even that much."

    When the Guardian asked what ‘The Marshal' wants, Rodman responded, "I ain't telling you… I will tell [Trump] when I see him."

    According to Simon Cockerell, the general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, who travels to North Korea regularly, Rodman might be a good candidate for the job.
    "I think the effectiveness [of citizen diplomacy] is quite low in the macro sense, because the issues tend to be big issues — weapons tests, sanctions and so on," Cockerell said, LA Times reported.

    "Dennis is the right guy for the job. Because he doesn't look like the cartoon Americans painted on the walls of schools — he doesn't have claws for hands, or anything like that. He's an unusual-looking dude, and he shows there's more diversity on the outside than they're willing to believe."


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    peace activist, peace, basketball, NBA, Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump, Dennis Rodman, US, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK)
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